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Video: Massive Ontario championship draws 400+ arm wrestlers

Sudbury just hosted the largest provincial arm wrestling championship in recent years, drawing hundreds of competitors to the Nickel City

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an explosion in the popularity of arm wrestling across Ontario. This fact was very much in evidence on May 18 at the Ontario Provincial Arm Wrestling Championships, which were held in Sudbury this year, as more than 400 competitors, and likely as many fans and supporters, turned out for the event.

Organized by the Rock City Reapers and held at the Holiday Inn on Regent Street, the event drew some 40 teams from Toronto and area to the south, all the way up to Kapuskasing in the north. Winners qualify for the nationals.

The Reapers themselves are a testament to the renewed popularity of the sport. In recent years, the team has ballooned in size to some 40 members, team member Brad Wade told

“Our team started at three or four members, and we’re up to probably about 40 now,” he said.

He suspects people stuck at home during the pandemic began watching arm wrestling videos on YouTube. In particularly, the popularity of videos featuring Canadian arm wrestler Devon Larratt, now considered one of the best of all time, helped drive the surge in popularity.

The competition also ran the gamut of divisions, going from wrestlers as young as 12 up to those 60+, with competition divided by gender, weight class and arm (many wrestlers compete with both their right and left arms).

The event also drew some higher profile competitors. One of those is Sudbury’s own John “The Savage” Therrien, who is currently one of the top ranked pullers at 198 pounds, earning him sponsorships, tournament entries and invitations and a growing social media following.

He was given his nickname by none other than Neil Pickup, the British champion arm wrestler and the founder of Arm Wars.

“When I go to the table, it’s no mercy,” 28-year-old Therrien said with a deceptively friendly grin.

Therrien, who is originally from Kapuskasing, is the owner of Greater Sudbury Contracting. Since winning the first youth competition he entered 13 years ago, Therrien said he was hooked on arm wrestling, but four years ago that hook sunk even deeper.

In 2022, Therrien made waves when he defeated top ranked Frode Haugland of Norway at Arm Wars. You can check out that match here.

With promoters covering his travel and entry to competitions, Therrien has wrestled in 13 states, the UK twice and Puerto Rico. He’s currently ranked first in Canada in his weight class.

While Sudbury might be a bit smaller and out of the way, it has turned out some impressive arm wrestling talent, he said. He highlighted his fellow Reaper team member Jocelyne Brisson just became the No. 1 woman in her category in North America Sarah Brackman at a U.S. tournament this month. 

Therrien said while he loves the competition and camaraderie of the sport, he also loves that anyone can do it and it’s a low-cost sport to enter.

“There’s no cost to start — you just bring your arms with you,” he said with a grin.

The event also attracted a man well-known in the arm wrestling community in Ontario and around the world. In fact, he’s a bit of a legend. That man is “Big” Earl Wilson.

Wilson didn’t compete in Sudbury; he was on hand as an official. His arm wrestling career is a storied one.

The Notawa resident has been in the sport 34 years. Wilson is the first wrestler to win three gold medals in 24 hours, which he did in 2000 in Finland. That record alone is enough to ensure his name lives on. 

But Wilson, whose daughter, Sarah, is a seven-time national champion, didn’t just do it once; he did it twice. Repeating his triple gold performance at the world championships in Italy in 2009. Incredibly, among a long list of medal performances, Wilson holds 11 world championship gold titles.

“I’ve travelled the world,” he said with a smile. “I’ve made friends in this sport that will last a lifetime.”

He said the provincial championship in Sudbury is the biggest he can remember.

“I’m stoked that it’s catching on the way it is,” he said.

The Ontario Arm Wrestling Association (OAWA) held its annual meeting at the provincial championships this past weekend. Wilson was elected the new president. 

He said his goal for his tenure is to alleviate some of the costs associated with hosting tournaments, so host teams don’t have to bear so much of the burden, and to make it more affordable for people to compete provincially and nationally.

The results (first place winners only)

Youth Under 12, right arm, girls

  • Evie Arnott, 60 pounds
  • Scarlett Tessier, 85 pounds
  • Youth Under 12, right arm, boys
  • Maxx Payne, 110 pounds
  • Collin Dionne, 110+ pounds

Youth Under 12, left arm, girls

  • Olivia Rodrigues, 60 pounds
  • Logan Arnott, 85 pounds

Youth Under 12, left arm, boys

  • Maxx Payne, 110 pounds
  • Collin Dionne, 110+

Youth 13-18, right arm, girls

  • Audree Lalonde, 130 pounds
  • Iti Machanda, 160 pounds
  • Hillary Nyland, 160+ pounds

Youth 13-18, left arm, girls

  • Audree Lalonde, 130 pounds
  • Iti Manchanda, 160 pounds
  • Julianne Watt, 160+ pounds

Youth 13-18, right arm, boys

  • Ben Lariviere, 130 pounds
  • Cole Braden, 160 pounds
  • William Heinning-Spriggs, 160+ pounds

Youth 13-18, left arm, boys

  • Nicolas Bolduc, 130 pounds
  • Cole Braden, 160 pounds
  • Canaan Trimm, 160+ pounds

Women’s Masters

  • Patricia Brisson, open weight., right
  • Kathy Facey, open, left

Men’s Masters, right arm

  • Donald Burns, 154 pounds
  • Luc Millette, 176 pounds
  • Nicola Gazzetto, 198 pounds
  • Dave Hall, 220 pounds
  • Jamie MacDonald, 220+ pounds

Men’s Masters, left arm

  • Donald Burns, 154 pounds
  • Luc Millette, 176 pounds
  • Jason Dubray, 198 pounds
  • Joe Gould, 220 pounds
  • Evan Bourgouin, 220+ pounds

Women’s Open, right arm

  • Patrinan Brooks, 132 pounds
  • Candy St. Pierre, 154 pounds
  • Patricia Brisson, 176 pounds
  • Sarah Wilson, 176+ pounds

Women’s Open, left arm

  • Patrinan Brooks, 132 pounds
  • Candy St. Pierre, 154 pounds
  • Jenny Radford, 176 pounds
  • Sarah Wilson, 176+ pounds

Men’s Open, right arm

  • Andy Chan, 143 pounds
  • Daniel Labrie, 154 pounds
  • Matt Hamelin, 176 pounds
  • John Therrien, 198 pounds
  • Jake Charles, 220 pounds
  • Mike Smith, 242 pounds
  • Curtis Cameron, 242+ pounds

Men’s Open, left arm

  • Andy Chan, 143 pounds
  • Matt Smith, 154 pounds
  • Brad Wade, 176 pounds
  • Jason Dubray, 198 pounds
  • Jake Charles, 220 pounds
  • Evan Bourgoin, 242 pounds
  • Curtis Cameron, 242 pounds


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Mark Gentili

About the Author: Mark Gentili

Mark Gentili is the editor of
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